A response to Rabbi Daniel Rabin on marriage equality

September 6, 2017

Rabbi Daniel Rabin posted the following on Facebook:

Was a great experience to chat with some of the Year 12 students at Bialik College today and discuss homosexuality in Judaism and issues surrounding same-sex marriage and the upcoming postal vote.

Some of the things we talked about was the great sensitivity and emotion surrounding this topic and the need to be incredibly mindful that there are differences of opinion in this regard.

People on both sides need to respect the differing views.

It is totally unacceptable to denigrate, insult or hurt others because they don’t share your opinion.

I have seen signs of “Stop the Fags” posted around and I think that is disgraceful. I have written previously, in particular about the Jewish community, that we need to be accepting and inclusive of all Jews regardless of their sexual orientation. Signs like these can cause vulnerable people to take their lives.

At the same time, if someone does not support the marriage act changing, don’t immediately call them homophobic or assume they are being hateful or bigoted.

I encourage civilized conversation on both sides and hope we can live our lives with mutual respect, courtesy and care for one another.

Rabbi Rabin is president of The Rabbinic Council of Victoria.  On September 4 the RCV issued this statement (incorrectly dated September 9):

Sep 4 2017 - RCV statement supporting No vote on marriage equality postal survey

Daniel Rabin is also the rabbi at the North Eastern Jewish Centre (NEJC) in Doncaster.  I grew up in Doncaster and attended the synagogue there in the 1980s and 90s.  I went to Sunday school there and had my bar mitzvah there.  The religious community there was a big part of my life and that of my family for many years.

I also attended Bialik College in the early 1980s.

When I was at the NEJC and at Bialik I was struggling with my sexuality.  I had been struggling with it since around 1979, and the struggle continued for 16 years until 1996.  During this time I had no support, no positive role models and no one to tell me that I wasn’t broken, wasn’t an aberration, wasn’t an abomination and wasn’t abnormal.  I was also incessantly bullied on my perceived sexuality for most of my school years.

After I came to terms with my sexuality I stopped attending NEJC, withdrew my financial support and stopped active religious observance because I was repulsed that part of the Orthodox religious service was to read a passage from the Torah that said men who slept with men were an abomination and that the penalty for doing this was their life, or words much to that effect.

Words can hurt, even if they are token.

In 2017, the rabbi of my former synagogue has told students at my former school that people, people like him, who oppose equal treatment of all citizens under the law of Australia should not be considered homophobic, or assumed to be hateful or bigoted.

That’s fair enough.  He is perfectly entitled to express those views.  However simultaneously he should not be surprised when people, people like me, look at the words he uses and wonder how he could not possibly be seen to be homophobic, or assumed to be hateful or bigoted.

What Rabbi Rabin is doing is in effect asking for the law to treat people in a heterosexual relationship in a manner that advantages them over people who are in other types of legal, consensual relationships.  His arguments and his logic are spurious, drawing from speculation, fear-mongering and deliberate misinformation.

Rabbi Rabin is welcome to practice his faith and to express his religious obligations within the sphere of Halacha and the remit of his responsibilities as both a congregational rabbi and the president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria.  However he is not welcome to interfere in the lives of people who wish to enter into civil marriages, especially those people who are not doing so in an Orthodox Jewish context.

To my mind, it appears as bigotry when I see religious leaders using their faith to treat as lesser or deny certain people the same rights they enjoy under civil law.

To my mind, it does appear hateful, not to mention deceitful and disingenuous, when religious leaders imply or infer that children raised by both biological parents are more deserving of their parents than children of adoptive, same-sex, gender-diverse and other parenting configurations.

To my mind, it does appear homophobic when religious leaders use their authority to spread misinformation, lies and deceitful propaganda about homosexual people, the relationships we have, the indignities we endure, and the intolerance and discrimination we face.

Rabbi Rabin asks for respect.  He forgets that respect is earned, not demanded.  At present, while Rabbi Rabin asks for people, people like him, to deny me the right to marry the man I love, the man I want to have look after me in sickness and in health, the man who I would give my life for, I feel little respect for his views.

Rabbi Daniel Rabin could learn a few things from those who want to remove discrimination under the law, not enforce it.  He may be a teacher of Torah, but he is yet to become a teacher of humanity.

 
Postscript – September 7 2017

Rabbi Daniel Rabin has issued a personal apology on Facebook for the RCV statement:

I accept this apology and call for the RCV to withdraw their statement and issue a similar apology for the hurt and insensitivity of their actions.

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Paul Winter vilifies homosexual people (again)

July 15, 2015

J-wirePaul Winter’s intolerance of homosexuality resurfaces in the comments under the J-Wire article Progressive rabbis reaffirm their support for marriage equality.  In a repeat of his 2011 performance on J-Wire he uses the same offensive and intellectually bankrupt arguments to vilify, degrade and demean homosexual people:

20150713 J-Wire Paul Winter comment

North Shore Temple EmanuelPaul Winter claims long-standing membership of the Progressive Jewish community North Shore Temple Emanuel.  NSTE is a member of the Union for Progressive Judaism, a body whose constituent organisations collectively support marriage equality and have done so for some years now.  I know NSTE have a firm stance on treating all people equally and with dignity.  They have demonstrated this with their solid support for LGBTIQ people for many years.  I look forward to hearing them reiterate their position on this and also hope they emphasise there is no room in their community for members who actively degrade fellow humans.


ECAJ calls for inclusive society (that excludes gays getting married)

January 7, 2013

ECAJ logoDespite my ongoing calls for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to decry the efforts of the Orthodox Rabbinate’s opposition to civil legislative reform to allow same-sex couples to marry in Australia, they remain steadfastly silent.  I have put a case forward that it is in their best interests to support marriage equality in Australia, especially given they already have issued a statement for respect of GLBT people.

The Executive Director of the ECAJ, Peter Wertheim expresses an interest in the harmony of society in  Australia, as reported in the Australian Jewish News :

Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said there was nothing Dr Mohamed could learn from Gaza and its Hamas rulers that could possibly have any legitimate application in Australia.

“His visit and his comments undermine Australia’s efforts to build a peaceful, inclusive and democratic multicultural society,” he said.

I put it to Peter Wertheim that whilst the ECAJ remains silent on marriage equality it shows that the organisation is not genuine about its desire for a wholly inclusive society in Australia, and demonstrates that the ECAJ’s agenda is pro-Zionist and not pro-humanity.

The credibility of the ECAJ, being a body that represents the interests of Australians, is perilously fraught at present.  Yet a simple statement claiming that it believes all Australians should have equal rights before the law could easily rectify that.

Is that too much of an ask Peter?


Executive Council of Australian Jewry passes motion in support of GLBT people

November 28, 2011

On July 27 2011 I had a conversation with Manny Waks, then president of the Canberra Jewish Community and a Vice President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, in which he agreed to sponsor a motion at the 2011 AGM of the ECAJ promoting greater respect of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Australia’s Jewish community.

Four months later, on November 27 2011, the following resolution was unanimously passed at the ECAJ AGM:

Policy on counteracting hatred and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons

This Council:

RECOGNISES that the Australian Jewish community is part of the Jewish people worldwide, with a shared history, culture and religious tradition is at the same time diverse and pluralistic, with its members holding different views on a range of issues;

CALLS FOR mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the community, despite any strongly held differences; recognition that disagreement is possible in ways that do not vilify other persons or their views; and avoidance of any public or private conduct that incites hatred, ridicule or contempt of another person or class of persons on the ground of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and, in accordance with the aforesaid principles;

OPPOSES any form of hatred of any person on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity;

ACKNOWLEDGES that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community, and to provide adequate services and support for them and their families; and

CALLS ON persons and organisations in the Jewish community to support that work both in our community and in the wider Australian community.

This motion passed by the ECAJ joins similar motions passed by the Victorian, New South Wales and ACT Jewish communities.  Whilst time will tell how effective these motions will be in helping provide a safer and more tolerant place for GLBT Australians, I am confident that this milestone in the history of Australian Jewry will help pave the way to a greater understanding, acceptance and inclusion of GLBT people.


John Searle, a man whose words and actions walk different paths

June 7, 2011

Over the past month and a bit we’ve heard a number of messages from John Searle, President of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria.

One of the most emphatic of these messages it that we must never turn a blind eye to prejudice, and that prejudice will not be tolerated.1

Another of these messages is that he was the victim of racial taunts when he was at school.2a

Then there’s the message that because of “threats” against the Jewish community it’s unfortunate that there have to be security guards outside Jewish schools and synagogues yet these people are making us all very proud and safe.2b

And lastly there’s the message that the Amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act are going to be good for the Jewish community, to make sure the right people get employed for the job (or as I like to say, to make sure the wrong people aren’t employed for the job).3

In summary, the self-proclaimed “leader” of Victoria’s Jewish community, a person who is familiar with being taunted for his difference, is telling us that we must never allow prejudice, and that we need to protect ourselves against threats of violence, but that it’s ok to prevent certain people from being employed because of their difference, despite the fact that they may be the best person for the job.

In case it’s not yet clear what I’m talking about, we’ve got a heterosexual male Jew telling the Jewish community that they mustn’t discriminate against homosexuals, yet it’s more than acceptable to discriminate against homosexuals, to make sure that religious organisations aren’t burdened with homosexual employees whose personal characteristics conflict with the anti-homosexual teachings of these religious organisations.

As Sue Pennicuik from the Victorian Greens says: “There is no place for discrimination in employment on the basis of personal characteristics”.4

In Victoria there are few places where Jews can’t be openly Jewish.  In Elsternwick and Caulfield you’ll find Jews wearing highly visible garments that identify themselves as Jewish.  In Melbourne CBD and on public transport you’ll find Jews wearing kippot, a religious head cover that immediately identifies them as Jewish.  For the most part these people can get about without being taunted, harrassed, being the victims of bullying or being brutalised.  Most of the time, although not always, as Menachem Vorchheimer will remind us.

By contrast, gay and bisexual men cannot walk down most streets in Melbourne holding hands, hugging or kissing each other or showing other respectable forms of affection or intimacy without abuse being hurled at them, taunted, intimidated or bashed within an inch of their lives.  I recently observed a heterosexual couple kiss passionately on the promenade at Southgate and not a single person looked twice or intruded on their personal space.  Yet if that couple were two men, or perhaps two women, I suspect most would do a double-take, or at best, if they were feeling vocal, tell them to get a room.

In the extreme, I’ve read news (here and here) of gay men in Melbourne being actively hunted as if it were a sport, simply to poofter bash, with death or permanent incapacity sometimes resulting.  This is not uncommon.  It will pay to check out the Anti-Violence Project map of violence reports, showing the location of incidents of violence against GLBT people and a description of what occurred.

In the Jewish community we have a “leader” of a community endorsing media releases quoting rabbis who state that accepting homosexuals to the community council will cause a division in the community.  The same “leader” states that it’s acceptable for orthodox Judaism to discriminate against homosexuals.  And the same “leader” endorses an act of parliament that allows religious organisations to discriminate against homosexuals.

Yet this “leader” tells us that we must never allow prejudice against homosexuals.  But this “leader” offers no protections for homosexual members of his community.  He offers no safe place for homosexual Jews in Victoria.  He offers no message that homosexuals are people like everyone else, to be treated with unconditional respect and with dignity.  He offers no gesture of welcome to homosexual Jews, to be who they are without fear of being taunted, or fear of being discriminated against, or fear of being excluded, or fear of being marginalised.

In fact he offers nothing of benefit for the homosexual Jews in Victoria, nor for the bisexual Jews or the transgender Jews.

Instead what John Searle does offer is further discrimination, further prejudice, further intolerance, further marginalisation and further invisibility.  His words unequivocally don’t match his actions, and that is unacceptable.  It is not the first time I have said this, and at this rate, it certainly won’t be the last.

Yom Hashoa Commemoration Evening – Speech by John Searle  [May 1 2011]

We must educate our children; help them to understand that we cannot turn a blind eye, not to racism, not to stereotyping, not to suffering, not to prejudice of any form, not ever.  We must send the message, that racism and prejudice in all its evil forms will not be tolerated.

JCCV Welcomes Amendments to Equal Opportunity Act  [May 6 2011]

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is delighted to see that the Victorian Government is proposing amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act as recently announced by the Attorney General, Robert Clark. In particular, the JCCV sees the amendments as rectifying anomalies in Victorian Equal Opportunity legislation as it relates to religious based schools and organisations.

JCCV president John Searle said that “the provisions that remove the inherent requirement test as it applies to faith based schools is a vast improvement for all Victorians and will ensure that all faith based schools will be able to hire staff who uphold the values and beliefs of the school and the school population. This is a very positive step for all those schools and organisations.”

Searle noted that “the amendments will ensure we have a fair balance between preventing discrimination and ensuring that schools and other organisations are able to employ people who conform with the value system and beliefs of the organisation. In this way, we will limit the possibilities for clashes, offence and tension in the workplace.”

Speech by J Searle at 2011 Yom Ha’atzmaut Cocktail Reception (and here)  [June 1 2011]

Of course, there are times when I am aware of being Jewish. I don’t remember when I first became aware of the fact that I was Jewish, but I do recall there were certain racial taunts at primary school and there were times I had to stand up for who I was or rather what I was; Jewish.

My kids have also had moments of discovery. I can recall the first time my they asked me with some bewilderment why there were no security guards at a non-Jewish school we were visiting. You see they had never seen a school without security guards. Unfortunately, as many in this room will realise, because of the threats against the Jewish community all our schools have guards.

All of our synagogues also have guards.

Imagine if every time you dropped your kids off at school, went to Church, Temple or your House of Worship you saw guards out the front. Often those guards or protectors come from the dedicated band of volunteers comprising the CSG and as I said earlier, in that way they are making us all very proud, and safe.

Media release: Greens MP stops Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill in the upper house  [June 3 2011]

This bill will allow faith-based organisations and schools to discriminate in employment matters on the basis of a person’s religious beliefs or activities, sex, sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, marital status, parental status and gender identity, without the current qualifier that the attribute must be an inherent requirement of the job (introduced by the previous government in 2010 in attempt to balance religious freedom with freedom from discrimination).

“However, neither the current act, nor the proposed changes balance religious freedom with the fundamental human rights of everyone to equality and protection against discrimination,” Ms Pennicuik said.

“There is no place for discrimination in employment on the basis of personal characteristics”, she said. “Employers should not be asking employees or job applicants about their personal lives. The only questions should be about qualifications and experience that are genuine requirements of the job”.


Conjugating Jew

November 29, 2010

[SOURCE]

Best check with the Jewish grammaticists over at Galus Australis.  They seem to be authorities on the use of the English language when it comes to sexual orientation.

Malki Rose:

The UN do not use the Torah to discriminate against GLBTs Gregory.
The UN have no belief in the Torah whatsoever, so please stop using the Torah and religion as your scapegoat for discrimination against GLBTs, it is inaccurate.

Me:

Malki, please refer to GLBT people as ‘GLBT people’ in future and not as ‘GLBTs’. We are people, just like you.

Anthony Frosh:

Michael,

Despite your protest to Malki, I’ll still not mind if you call me a “Jew” rather than a “Jewish person”.

Michael:

Frosh,

The word ‘Jew’ is a noun. The acronym ‘GLBT’ is commonly used as an adjective.

It would be a start if the people who defined themselves by excluding everyone else would accept some responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in.

Michael.

Malki Rose:

Frosh,
You know many GLBT’s refer to themselves as ‘GLBT’s’. It just means gayS, lesbianS, bi-sexualS and transgenderS.
It something we do in English. Its called using a word in plural form.
Its quite silly that some people find plural forms to be so offensive.

Respect!


Respecting Gay Jews must lead to unconditional acceptance

May 20, 2010

This week’s edition of Southern Star covers the revised policy of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) that asks for the Victorian Jewish community to respect gay people (read my blog on that here).  This came about as a result of action by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society and people from the Bund movement.  Read their motion put to the JCCV in the October 2009 JCCV plenum meeting here.

This call for respect is definitely a good start.  However the downside of simply not saying bad things about gay people is that potentially no one says anything.  As an example, some people previously only said degrading things about gay people because they feel our homosexual ‘lifestyles’ are an abomination in the eyes of their religion.  Now these people may reluctantly feel an obligation to abide by the JCCV’s request to respect gay people, possibly because the organisation they are a member of is in turn a member of the JCCV, and so bite their tongue and don’t use degrading language to describe us.

So you then have the situation where people are not saying bad things about gay people, which is good, but they’re then not actually saying anything, which is bad, because it makes the issue of intolerance of homosexuality invisible.

The next step that the JCCV must take is to make the issue of intolerance of homosexuality visible.  It claims it’s serious about addressing mental health issues in gay people in the Jewish community because it has set up a reference group to investigate these issues.  It would be good to see some sort of public statement about what this reference group is actually doing, as it’s now 6 months down the track since it was established and there has been no public statement or any form of transparency on its operation.

It would also be good if the JCCV started acknowledging that these mental health issues and the alarmingly high suicidal behaviour didn’t just affect ‘GLBT Jews’ but actually affected the entire community.  I say this because the people who are most at risk are those who have same-sex attractions or gender identity issues but don’t or can’t identify their feelings outwardly and so are not visible as GLBT in the community.  They are “in the closet” and may be in denial of their sexuality or gender identity and in fear of anyone finding out.

These people are someone’s children, siblings or parents.  They’re someone’s friends or business partners.  They’re part of a community that supposedly cares about its people.  Supposedly.

Yes, respect is good, but it’s not enough.  Tolerance is only part of the way there.  Acceptance is the ultimate goal and it must be unconditional.

Michael.


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